OPINION: As remarkable as it may seem, Richie McCaw and his "perfect" All Blacks of 2012 are in the process of taking their game to a new level in the wake of their World Cup triumph.
It's as if they've got together and determined that conquering the world in 2011 wasn't enough. Now they've charted a course to dominate the international game, to leave their imprint all over it, and so far in a remarkable 2012 season they're doing just that.
The All Blacks have now won all nine of their tests this year and have rattled off 16 victories in a row. The world record of 17 is now, surely, theirs for the taking.
They must also be contemplating the prospect of a "perfect" year which has never been achieved in the professional era.
With just the wobbly Wallabies to come in Brisbane, then four tests up north in November - where they haven't lost since 2002 - it's definitely on.
What's more the All Blacks are giving every impression of getting better as this year unfolds. They have now put together two high quality test performances in a row, both coming on the road, on the back of a gruelling travel schedule.
This morning's 32-16 triumph over the Springboks in front of 80,000 South Africans in Soweto was, as good as it gets.
It was a performance - and result - that should have every Kiwi puffing their chests out with pride as we go about our businesses this Sunday.
We ask a lot from our All Blacks. They must not only win test matches, but we demand that they do so with a degree of style.
It's a similar standard of performance that Brazil's footballers are held to.
And over the last fortnight, as they've taken their show on the road, the All Blacks have delivered two of their finest performances of the year.
Last week in Buenos Aires they expressed themselves beautifully as they demolished Argentina to unleash the complete game they'd been threatening all season.
But this week, against the buoyant Boks, they were even better. Let's face it, thrashing the Pumas is one thing; but taking care of business against a motivated and confident South African side on home soil is another altogether. And on that back of all that travel.
To have to absorb the sort of pressure and impact that the Springboks were able to unleash in that opening quarter today required something special from McCaw and his All Blacks.
Lesser teams would have crumbled. Heck, good teams would have fallen apart.
But the New Zealanders absorbed a massive weight of pressure, from the Boks, from referee Alain Rolland and from their own strange kick-first tactics, and then gathered themselves for a riposte.
They got themselves back into the game over the second quarter, when they scored two scintillating, breath-taking tries, though still trailed 16-12 at the break.
But the All Blacks came out after halftime and simply took ownership of this contest, scoring two more excellent tries to leave the Boks in their dust.
So dominant were the New Zealanders in that second 40 that the harsh sinbinning of fullback Israel Dagg was taken in stride, with nary a furrowed brow.
In paying tribute to these special All Blacks it is imperative to start with the skipper, the remarkable McCaw. This was his 100th test victory, in 112 appearances.
That's an incredible record of success and says it all about the quality of a fellow who must now be our greatest All Black.
Once again McCaw was at the heart of so much of substance from these All Blacks. His toughness, his competitiveness, his leadership and his skill make him the greatest player in the game.
It's an honour he's held for some time.
But he now has a rival in the form of his fellow loose forward Kieran Read who was again superb in this four-tries-to-one victory.
Read is at the peak of his powers at the moment, throwing himself into the tight exchanges, ranging wide to provide key link moments, making tackles, hitting rucks, gaining go-forward. It's a treat to watch this young man right now.
I thought both locks had big games as well, as did Liam Messam once he settled into his rhythm. The scrum was rock steady and the lineout eventually found its form. Hooker Andrew Hore was also a terrier at the breakdown.
The All Black backs were again superb. Every time they attack now they look likely. Halfback Aaron Smith is playing brilliantly, and Dan Carter is back to his very best. His tactical acumen was a vital ingredient in this victory.
The midfield tandem of Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith are on top of things and the back three were superb today.
It was great to see Hosea Gear respond to his challenge so well with his best test performance that leaves Steve Hansen spoilt for choice on the left wing.
But if there is one quality of this All Blacks side that stands above all others it has to be their defence. Once again it was superb in Soweto as the Boks were repeatedly halted in their tracks.
Take a bow All Blacks. Take a bow Steve Hansen. You have done us all so very proud.
- © Fairfax NZ News